Interview with Jeff Lemire
Pedro Monje: In Descender, you offers us a new side of your talent, with a sci-fi/human tale with so much word-building. In which moment you decided you wanted to tell a story like this in this genre?
Jeff Lemire: I have always loved science fiction. I love the world-building and the big metaphors it provides. I think when I did the series TRILLIUM it really got me excited bout doing more sci-fi. I loved working on that book, and I loved designing the worlds, the technology etc. So I wanted to continue with that, but on a much bigger scale.
P.M.: In Descender we can recognize some influences such as Naoki Urasawa’s Pluto, Katsuhiro Ōtomo’s Akira, Steven Spielberg’s A.I. or even Pinocchio. What are your influences in this field?
J.L.: The three you named are definitely big influences on the project for sure. I was also really influenced by the world building in Dan Simmons’ HYPERION novels and the cosmic quirkiness of Jack Kirby’s 2001 comics and his MACHINE MAN comics as well. And Kubrick’s sense of pacing and cinematography is also a large inspiration for both Dustin and I.
P.M.: These last years Sci-fi has been the new fashion among the independent comic production (from Saga to Black Science including East of West, Nowhere Men et al), but curiously there has been an spike in movies regarding the artificial intelligence, as with Ex Machina or even Age of Ultron. How do you view this genre?
J.L.: I think it is a sign of the times we live in. Technology is becoming more and more a part o four lives. We spend more and more time interacting with our devices and screens. So I think these A.I. fantasy’s are a natural by product. As far as the fashionable nature of sci-fi, I don’t worry too much about that. The good work stands above any trends and will stand the test of time. The rest will fall away.
P.M.: However, in the core of this story we can find the same core than in many of your production, from the same Essex County to Superboy, Underwater Welder or Sweet Tooth. It’s a human story. What are your influences in this field?
J.L.: I think all of my stories come from the same place. They come from where I grew up and how I grew up in rural Canada. I try not to analyze where my stories come from too much, I don’t want to ruin it!
P.M.: Actually, your last work published by Astiberri was Essex County trilogy back in 2010. Since then, a lot has changed in your career and here we are with Descender. How much of Essex County is present in Descender?
J.L.: I think it will always be a big part of me, because Essex County was where I found my voice as an artist and writer. I think you can see a lot of similarities between the character of Lester in Essex County and TIM-21. They are both orphans. They are both isolated and only and seeking a sense of place and purpose in a world they are just starting to understand.
P.M.: In this ongoing you collaborate with Dustin Nguyen. Could you tell us how you decided to work together Descender? As you are an artist too, have you had any input in the artist side (for example, the watercolors choice)?
J.L.: Dustin and I were both freelancing at DC Comics. He had been there for 14 years as a freelancer and was hungry to do some creator owned work. And I was a big admirer of his work. I had started working on Descender and thought of him, and he was available.
I think we like each other so much because we share a very similar sense of storytelling and many of the same artistic influences. So I don’t give him much input at all, because we both already share so much of the same point of view.
Working with Dustin is effortless. We talk so little about the book. I write stuff, he loves it. He draws stuff, I love it. It’s not much more complicated than that. An ideal relationship built on mutual respect and two creators who have very similar storytelling priorities. So the look of Descender, the technology, the robots, the spaceships, the aliens…they originate from my world building, but he realizes them visually on his own.
I let him do his thing. There were a few instances where I something specific in mind and gave a bit of direction, but never any sketches or anything. But he and I both talked a lot before starting so we had a good idea of what we waned to do and I wrote the book with his style in mind.
P.M.: This first arc is focused on humans and aliens societies. What can we expect in the second arc?
J.L.: Arc 2 is called MACHINE MOON, and the title itself is a bit of a hint. We will see the hidden home world of the HARDWIRE, the robot resistance. More specifically, Tim-21, Telsa, Quon and the gang will be brought there. But not all of TIM’s companions will make it that far.
We will also delve deeper into the origin of TIM-22 and what makes he and TIM-21 unique from one another and what their existence means to one another and to the larger mystery.
And on top of that we will introduce a MAJOR new character. One I am very excited about. One with links to TIM-21’s past and one who will change the course of the series completely.
P.M.: How has been the reception until now? Have this made you change your mind about the length of the series or do you have the end already in mind?
J.L.: The book has been received incredibly well, both critically and commercially. The story itself hasn’t changed much, but the success has allowed me to slow down and spend more time with things, knowing we can keep going for a s long as we want.
P.M.: It has been announced that Sony Pictures is going to develop Descender as a movie (It was fast!!). In your mind, which actors/actress would be the best ones for Tim-21, Quon or Tesla… sorry… Telsa?
J.L.: Surprisingly I have never been asked this question before. I think Emma Stone or Jennifer Lawrence would be a great Telsa. Tim-21, I have no idea. I don’t know any child actors. And as for Quon, maybe Ken Watanabe. He would be great.
P.M.: Last question (although I fear that you get it asked too much). Right now you have many titles in your plate, but I’d like to mention your indie work (from A.D. to Plutonia, Roughneck). What can you tell us?
J.L.: Plutona is almost finished. It is a limited series, 5-issues, s that will be wrapping up soon. Roughneck is a new 270 page graphic novel that I both wrote and drew and it will be released in October 2016. And AD is my collaboration with Scott Snyder. A Sci-Fi graphic novel, which Scott is writing and I am drawing. That is probably due to be released in November 2016.
P.M.: Thank you very much for your time, Jeff.